Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:10 pm

Friday Mailbag: The coach Penn St should pursue

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, if you have questions send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @Newberry75 Is PSU interviewing anybody? Seems pretty quiet for such a high profile search.

It's been kept very quiet if they have. Given all of the uncertainty with the leadership there and the cloud that will hang over that community for a very long time, it's a delicate situation. I can report that a hot rumor which was swirling in the past 36 hours is untrue that was linking former Penn State player Al Golden to the job. Golden, the rumor went, was picked up Wednesday in New York in a private plane and flown to PA to meet with Penn State officials. However, a source explained to me that the private plane that Golden was flying in is actually owned by a Miami donor and the coach was going around the northeast recruiting for Miami.

The guy who I think Penn State should target for this job is actually a different guy with Miami ties, Mario Cristobal, the head coach at FIU. As I wrote here a few months ago, Cristobal has done wonders taking over what was the bleakest, messiest, most screwed-up FBS program in all of college football. He is a high-energy, no-BS guy who knowns the northeast well from his time as Greg Schiano's top recruiter when they were trying to breathe some life into the Rutgers program. Cristobal knows what it takes to win both as a player and as a coach. He has shown he has great focus, which I think will be paramount for the next head coach there given everything that you will inherit.

If you're skeptical about Cristobal's tenacity and savvy to land such a big job with such unique problems,  click the link and look at the bottom of the column:

I said no coach in FBS took over a worse program. The reason: FIU was like no other program at that level. There was no infrastructure. They had no film library. They had no academic support system in place for the players. They had to build everything from scratch when Cristobal's staff arrived. "Our first month of official visits, we didn't show them the locker room or the weight room," said a former staffer. "We were running smoke and mirrors. Everything focused on the campus and the city of Miami. We'd just show them plans of what we were building."

The facilities were laughable. The program also had administrative issues where players had a hard time even getting their Pell Grant money. On top of that, Cristobal also inherited a dreadful APR rating and the program was going on academic probation, so they couldn't even go after full recruiting classes.

From @astubert Do you think Devon Still wasn't selected as an AFCA All-American because of the PSU scandal?

I'd hope that wasn't the reason behind it since Still had nothing to do with it. I was surprised to see him NOT on the team. If you were to ask which DT had the most impact on his defense and doesn't take a lot of plays off, Still would be the first guy I'd think of. He played on a top 5 defense, and he was the biggest reason why they were so tough. He had 17 TFLs, which is really impressive since most of the other top guys in tackles for loss are edge rushers, not guys who consistently see double teams and lots of traffic.

From @tperk54 why on earth did you not vote for Trent Richardson for the Heisman?

Richardson is an outstanding back. He was on top or near the top of my ballot for much of this season. He had some spectacular moments. Best example was that amazing run he had against that dreadful Ole Miss team. In a few games against some of the tougher defenses he played, he was good, although he only averaged a little over four yards per carry against Penn State and under four yards against LSU and his team didn't even score a touchdown. I feel like he's a better back that Montee Ball, but the Wisconsin back put up even more impressive numbers and he did so against some good defenses too. Both backs had very good years. I believe there are six or seven guys you could make a strong case for. I watched a lot of games on each of those guys. To me, it just comes down who had the best year in terms of making the most impact on his program and, as I detailed in the Big Picture column, that was Robert Griffin III.
From @SouthernJetNC Is Fedora a great, good or average hire for UNC?

I'd categorize him as a good hire. He's aggressive, has a sharp offensive mind and a really keen eye for talent. That last part is big. He helped land some very unheralded prospects at Oklahoma State who blossomed into stars. Obviously, a lot will depend on the caliber of assistants he can surround himself with, but I was impressed by the staff he assembled right away when he took over at Southern Miss. Those guys could really recruit.

From @T_Dwyer Is "Charlie Weis? Huh?" enough of a question or should I be more specific?

That one caught me off guard too. I can see why KU would consider Weis, although I wouldn't think they'd hire him over, say, a Gus Malzahn or even a Chad Morris, if they could've landed either. Weis isn't a first-time college head coach, but it's not like he was a big success at ND with a lot more resources there. His name will carry weight with some recruits, but so would those other guys.

As for the other side of it: Kansas is a really, really tough place to win at. Remember before Mark Mangino arrived, KU hadn't had a winning season in a half-dozen years before and hadn't been to a bowl since 1995. In 2007, when Mangino got KU into a BCS bowl, which they won, was arguably the best coaching job we've seen in the last 20 years. KU was 12-1 and finished No. 7. Amazing. KU isn't in a fertile recruiting state and it can't take many of the local JC players that other programs in that league can. Then they got rid of him and the program has bottomed out in two seasons with Turner Gill. They weren't even competitive. 

Weis, should attract some talent on offense. According to the New York Times, Dayne Crist, a former Weis QB at ND, will visit there this weekend. Landing Crist would be a good first step for the coach. Weis will inherit a talented young RB in Darrian Miller, but also the nation's worst defense. Crist would be a quick fix to try and help them get respectable in a hurry, maybe go 4-8, 5-7 to win over some skeptical recruits. But it is going to be a very uphill battle. Top recruits won't perk up for KU as they will listen if you're the head coach at Notre Dame. Now maybe some QBs and tight ends may given Weis' pedigree, but there are other coaches with strong NFL track records too and they're at bigger programs. When Weis was at ND, he was at the glamour school. Now, he'll be below OU, Texas, Oklahoma State and just about everyone else in the Big 12. 

From @MatthewLevi If Bama wins BCS, what are the odds that LSU still gets AP title since LSU beat Bama at Bama's house and had a stronger SOS?

My hunch is those are slim chances LSU would still get the AP title. Keep in mind if Bama won, they'd be beating LSU in the Tigers backyard. Also, people, by nature, are creatures of the moment. They tend to go with what they just witnessed and put heavy emphasis on it. By overlooking the BCS title game like that would make a farce of something (the BCS) that is already pretty dubious.

From @AnalogSports Is Mike Leach going to run his same offense up in Pullman? In the snow? Will he get the right kids for it?

They ran the Air-Raid system in Iowa, where the weather was brutal and had a lot of success with it under those conditions. It can get pretty windy in Lubbock and some parts of the Big 12 too. 
Sounds like he already has a few of those kids in the program right now with those two QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and Marquess Wilson, a great sophomore WR. The challenge will be for them to grasp the nuances of the system and rep it so much where they can get the timing down.

From @cdunk87 Who do you think would be better fit at Nebraska for DC Ron Zook or Mike Stoops?

Zook is a fantastic recruiter, but as a DC, I'll go with Mike Stoops. Ask OU fans about what they feel like the program has lacked since Mike Stoops left for Arizona. He is a very good coach. People I've spoken to who have worked with him saying he was an excellent tempo setter at practice and very good in the day-to-day. That said it would be interesting to see him on the same sideline with another up-to-the-edge intensity guy like Pelini, but since both go back I suspect they'd could play off each other pretty well if Stoops does end up in Lincoln.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 11:26 am

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of 2011

Coming into the season there was so much optimism at different programs, but fast forward three months and there's been a lot of disappointment. This week's Top 10 list: biggest duds of the 2011 season. (I'm leaving off the BCS, which you could make a strong case for deserving to be on this list every year.)

1. Maryland: Randy Edsall's first season in College Park was a disaster of the highest order. The Terps got off to a nice start, edging a seriously depleted Miami team that was gutted by NCAA suspensions, but then things completely fell apart. They didn't beat another FBS program the rest of the way. They got blown out at home by Temple 38-7. They lost to a bad BC team by 11. They blew a huge second-half lead against NC State. The stunning part in all of this was it's not like Edsall inherited the FAU squad. They were 9-4 last year and had the best young QB in the conference in Danny O'Brien. However, the sophomore quarterback regressed in a big way under Edsall. The team was 111th in passing efficiency. In the final eight games of the season, the Terps managed to scored more than 21 points twice. Somewhere, Ralph Friedgen is probably still laughing at his bosses who ran him out of his alma mater after winning ACC Coach of the Year honors.

2. The State of Florida: The Noles were preseason No. 6 and slogged their way to an 8-4 record where they didn't even make it to the ACC title game. At one point they had a three-game losing streak. In mid-November, they lost at home against unranked UVA. ... The Gators, No. 22 in preseason, fizzled on offense and went 6-6 by dropping six of their last eight games. . . . Miami's hopes were torpedoed on the eve of the season by the Nevin Shapiro mess that would sideline a bunch of key players early. The Canes never recovered, losing six games by eight points or less before opting out of what figured to be a mediocre bowl game in hopes of appeasing the NCAA down the road. Their final game: a home loss to a 3-8 BC team. ... USF got off to a fast start, beating a ranked Notre Dame team on the road, but then Skip Holtz team flopped, losing seven of their final eight. ... UCF, which despite having the No. 11 D in the country, failed to even get bowl eligible, going 5-7. Last year UCF was 11-3. Now there is much uncertainty and who knows if sophomore QB Jeff Godfrey, who had seemed to be the centerpiece of the upstart program, will be back in Orlando in 2012?

3. Texas A&M: The Aggies, preseason No. 8, had way too much firepower to go 6-6. Even 8-4 would've felt like a big let down. Statistically, they were a very hard team to figure out. They were seventh in the country in total offense, first in fewest sacks allowed, first in sacks, 13th in rushing defense but they also were 100th in turnover margin. They blew a ridiculous amount of games in the second half. They ended up losing four of their last five and Mike Sherman lost his job because of it.

4. Ole Miss: A lot of people pegged the Rebels for the bottom of the SEC West, but no one would've expected they'd have the worst season in school history. Houston Nutt's lackluster recruiting at Ole Miss really caught up with him. His team got thumped by Vandy in a way that the Commodores never beat another SEC program. The Rebels also lost by 17 to lowly Kentucky and then get crunched by La. Tech 27-7 at the their homecoming game. The 2-10 season cost Nutt his job and was punctuated with another blowout loss to arch-rival Miss. State, 31-3.

5. Oklahoma: [Note: The Sooners were a bad omit on my part when I initially published this list.] They were preseason No. 1 and sputtered badly in the season half of the season, losing three of their last six. The first loss was home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that would end up having its worst season in almost 20 years. The Sooners finished off the season getting drilled by rival Oklahoma State, 44-10.

6-UCLA defense:
Few teams look better on the hoof, but the Bruins just never could get it done under Rick Neuheisel. Despite a defensive unit were more than its share of former blue-chippers, the Bruins were 112th in sacks and 96th in scoring defense. They surrendered 38 or more six times this season.

7. Mississippi State: They were a long shot to win the incredibly stacked SEC West, but the Bulldogs were still a preseason top 20 team but they never got much of anything going. They went 6-6. The only team with a winning record they beat was 8-4 La. Tech. Their other four wins over FBS opponents went 12-36 combined.

8. Notre Dame offense: The Irish were ranked a respectable 43rd in scoring, but given the weapons Brian Kelly had (led by WR Michael Floyd) ND should've been a lot more dynamic. They were held to 20 points or less five times this season. They also were brutal when it came to taking care of the football, tying for third-worst in the country in turnover margin.

9. Kansas: Turner Gill was fired after just two seasons because the Jayhawks were so overwhelmed this season. They beat an FCS program and then knocked off the eventual MAC champs (NIU) in Week 2 and it was all downhill from them on as it was one epic blowout loss after another. They ranked 106th in total offense and 120 in total defense. Of their final 10 losses to finish the season, only two were decided by less than double-digits. They lost six games by 30 points or more.

10. Illinois offense: Things set up so well for Ron Zook this season. They had a dynamic young QB (Nate Scheelhaase) and some talented backs and receivers. The Illini jumped out to a 6-0 start and then the bottom drops out. They lose the next six, failing to score more than two TDs in any other game. They managed just seven points against a Minnesota D that was 102nd in scoring defense. They scored 14 on a Michigan, which is 51 points fewer than they scored on the Wolverines on a year ago. The Illini finished 91st in scoring, dropping 59 spots from where they were at mid-season. They also ended up 106th in sacks allowed.

Posted on: November 11, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: November 11, 2011 12:33 pm

Friday Mailbag: On the Penn State scandal

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, if you have questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS:

From @ajohnymous  Is the PSU thing the biggest CFB scandal of all time? Biggest sports scandal?

Yes, I can't think of a bigger college scandal. As I wrote earlier this week, we in sports throw around the term "scandal" for things like the free tattoos mess at Ohio State or Reggie Bush and his family getting taken care of, those things are nothing compared to the damage that has allegedly been done by Jerry Sandusky to so many children. SMU got the NCAA's death penalty and even the circumstances around that and the shocking nature of it all pale in comparison to this.


In Sandusky, you had a guy who had meant so much to the Penn State program and then you start reading about what he has allegedly done for years and years, turning so many children into victims, it's disgraceful. But there were also so many people in positions of leadership there that buried their heads in the sand. This is one of those situations where there really is so much blame to go around. It is so tragic.

Adding to that, is you have this iconic figure in Joe Paterno. For all of the wonderful things Paterno did for Penn State and that community--raising millions for the school library, graduating such a high percentage of his players, he always seemed to epitomize doing things "the right way" yet people will never forget this week. That he was fired for his role in not doing enough. That when he first learned that Sandusky, this monster was such a danger to little boys, he did not do enough. 

  There has been a lot of debate about exactly what Paterno was told and when about his former long-time assistant. But what I can't get beyond is, as soon as the 28-year-old graduate assistant, Mike McQueary comes to Paterno's home that Saturday morning in 2002, and even if he only says these words: "Sandusky... 10-year old boy... showers... Friday night... Penn State football offices..."  you have to be so disturbed and outraged that you have to press for more details.
And, no one ever looked for that 10-year old boy?

Remember Paterno testified that he did receive "the graduate assistant's report at his home on a Saturday morning. Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset" and reported to his AD that his assistant had witnessed "Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy." Remember Paterno is the most powerful man at that school and yet Sandusky, almost a decade later, was still allowed to be around the Penn State football complex as recently as this month? How was that possible?

The school's handling of the situation only seemed to stoke the volatility of the whole thing this week.  You had Penn State president Graham Spanier's statement of "unconditional support" for AD Tim Curley and the other top school official after they'd been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor.  You had the school issuing its statement that, while Paterno would have his regularly scheduled Tuesday press conference, questions about anything other than the weekend's game were off-limits, which indicated how little Penn State PR grasped the magnitude of the story around them. Even in the wake of the Board of Trustees announcement that Paterno was out immediately as the school's head coach, when word got out that McQueary was still going to be allowed to coach in this weekend's game, it only fed into more outrage because people couldn't grasp how the guy who had actually witnessed the heinous act and ran and called his father was allowed to coach, yet Paterno wasn't. 

We are talking about such a proud fanbase and a school whose identity is so tied into one man in Paterno that has only added more fuel to this story on top of all that.
Earlier Friday morning after I re-tweeted a link to an interview on Good Morning America with one of the victim's parents, the link was titled "PSU victim's mother speaks" a Penn State grad asked me: 

"Why does it say "PSU victim's" Shouldn't it say Jerry Sandusky's victim?"

I didn't label the initial tweet, but while Sandusky is at the root of all of this, given how Penn State mishandled this for so long after there was an eye witness a decade ago, this is more than just Sandusky that victimized people there.

From @michaelgraham  How is Gene Smith still the AD at Ohio State?

  Gordon Gee and Ohio State have stood by Smith as he's botched almost every aspect of that investigation for the past 11 months. Both of them have really stumbled all over the place. Remember that "poster child for compliance" comment from Gee? Smith's close connection to power brokers at the NCAA, though, seems to help Ohio State in getting a favorable verdict down the line.

  Despite all of the school's public proclamations, OSU did get hit with the dreaded Failure to Monitor charge by the NCAA Thursday and Gee, the school president, did chastise Smith for failing to ensure that its now-banished booster Bobby DiGeronimo didn't keep his distance from the Buckeye players and the program. But Gee seems adamant about keeping Smith in spite of his handling of things in the past year.

From @NAFOOM  pecking order for open HC jobs? PSU, Ole Miss, FAU, tOSU, Zona all I can think of right now.

You left out Tulane and New Mexico. The merits of coaching jobs will vary depending on which coach and his background is doing the gauging because familiarity is a big key often in a guy's success at a program. 

I'll rank the current vacancies this way: Ohio State, Penn State, Arizona, Ole Miss, FAU, Tulane, New Mexico.

Ohio State - Yes, it has the ongoing NCAA investigation but still has top-notch facilities and history.

Penn State - The cloud of what has happened around this program will linger for a very long time.

Arizona - Improving facilities, solid but not great football history, close to fertile SoCal recruiting base.

Ole Miss - In a big league with some solid JC recruiting talent nearby but still in a conference where you're far from the legion of heavyweights in the SEC fighting the uphill battle. And it'd be easier to win the Pac-12 at Arizona than it would win the SEC at Ole Miss.

FAU - Nice new stadium in a small league but surroundied by lots of talent.

Tulane - Shaky support where you wonder how committed the school is to football but there is some good recruiting in the area.

New Mexico - In a better league than FAU but doesn't have the recruiting base near by.
    From @VLOHokie how come VT's David Wilson, the Nation's leading rusher isn't getting any Heisman talk? 

Wilson is terrific. I mentioned this Thursday night on our Inside College Football show on CBS Sports Network: Wilson won't win the Heisman this year but he is deserving of consideration to get to NYC for the ceremony. He's been consistently outstanding. The biggest thing working against him is he's done it a bit off the radar. Va. Tech's really not been able to get people's attention nationally this year. The Hokies have only played one ranked team all season, No. 13 Clemson and they lost 23-3 at home. Wilson did put up nice numbers (123 yards) but he had a fumble that set up the Tigers first score. If they'd won that game, things for Wilson might be a little different but it didn't happen.

From @ TimValenzuela  Bruce, will USC be a contender for the Pac 12 South title next year when they get off their postseason ban? Enjoy your work.

Even if Matt Barkley and Matt Kilil both leave early for the NFL, USC has the personnel in place to be a favorite in the South in 2012. I suspect Kalil is gone. I think with Barkley it's 50-50 right now. He's going to school with his siblings. He's close to home and it seems like he loves being a college kid. Plus, the appeal of getting to take USC back from the NCAA sanctions after having been one of the faces of the program as it deals with all of that stuff in the rebuilding effort would be tempting I imagine.

With Barkley, this would be a BCS title contender considering the bulk of the young O-line returns, and Robert Woods and an impressive group of young receivers comes back. The defense should continue to improve as well. They're basically starting all freshmen linebackers now. The best DB, Nickell Robey, is just a sophomore and they're redshirting a bunch of blue-chip D-linemen.

Without Barkley, it'll be an interesting battle between Jesse Scroggins, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. All three came to USC as big-name recruits but the drop-off from the three-year starter running the show would be significant. My hunch is it'd be the difference between a BCS title contender and a borderline top 20 team.

From @chucktodd actual football? How is Miami 10 point dogs?

FSU is home and has been more consistent over the past month. Miami's defense has been very shaky. The Canes do have two wins over teams that were ranked when UM faced them (No. 17 Ohio State and No. 22 Ga. Tech) and that's two more ranked wins than FSU has this season. Then again, those two games were at home. The Canes also have lost two of their three road games this year.

From @KBourgeois43  RichRod to Tulane, any chance?

I doubt it. Just of the jobs that are already open (Arizona and Ole Miss) Rodriguez may be able to get a better job than Tulane. And, even if he doesn't get one of those two, many other better jobs will come open soon. I also wouldn't be surprised if UCF comes open at the end of the year and if Rodriguez can't get Zona or Ole Miss, I could see him being a good fit there in Orlando.

From @BruningCollin   Due to PSU, My cynicism is at an all time high. Longer tenure in the SEC? Mike Sherman at a&m, or Gary Pinkel at Mizzou?

Pinkel. He's done a lot more with Mizzou than Sherman has at A&M. Sherman's going to have to really step things up to ensure that he's at A&M beyond 2012.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:02 pm

Friday Mailbag: The mess at UCLA

Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @hogeandrew With the blowout loss to Arizona last night, is Rick Neuheisel finally done?

I realize UCLA Dan Guerrero tried to be supportive of his coach in the wake of that embarrassing 48-12 loss but the Arizona game was critical for Neuheisel. Not only could he not afford to lose that game, the last thing he needed was for his team to get blown out on national television by a team that was 1-5 and ranked 119th in rushing. Zona finished with 254 rushing yards and clearly looked like the team that wanted to be there. The Bruins, who were still in the thick of the Pac-12 South race, never showed up.

The Bruins fell to 3-4 and 2-2 in conference play. I supposed if they ran the table, which would include beating ASU and arch-rival USC that--and probably only that--would save his job. But realistically, the team that showed up Thursday night does not appear capable of running off five consecutive wins. Four of which would come against teams better than the one that mauled them on national TV.

Personally, I like Rick Neuheisel a lot. I think he's one of the brightest guys in coaching. He's personable, funny and I can attest to him being a truly decent man. On paper, he has recruited very well at UCLA with his first three signing class all in the top 15. But for a variety of reasons, it just isn't working out: They've never been able to find a QB; the O-line has been a disaster for much of his time and the defense, which on the hoof sure looks the part, has not gotten any better. It's only gotten older. And when Neuheisel hit the re-set button on his coaching staff after three seasons, it hasn't gotten results. And quite frankly, it is all about results. It's Year Four and they should be doing better, especially since with USC falling off and dealing with NCAA sanctions, the window of opportunity has only widened since he arrived.

From @kacpeters where would you rank texas a&m in the sec this year (obviously behind lsu/bama at 1&2)

At this point, with Marcus Lattimore out for the season, I'd rank Texas A&M fourth among SEC teams behind Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. The Aggies have an explosive offense and a suspect defense, but one that is good at getting pressure on the QB. In many ways they remind me of Arkansas, the team that rallied to beat them. Now if Lattimore was healthy, I'd say the Aggies would also be behind South Carolina.

From @Ole_Met now that Carolina has an AD, any idea who they're looking at for HC?

My hunch is that Bubba Cunningham will take a long look at Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Both have Tulsa ties and Malzahn is a well-respected offensive mind. His offense has struggled quite a bit this year (the Tigers are 77th in scoring), but a big dropoff was expected with the program losing Cam Newton and almost all of their O-linemen. Even if they finish no better than 7-5, Malzahn still will be an attractive candidate and I'd think would be tempted given the ACC is a lot easier to win a conference title than the SEC would be.

From abellwillring do you think FSU has a chance to salvage the season? Would winning out make the year a success or still a huge disappointment?

No. It's too late for that. This was supposed to be the year the Noles came back on the national stage in a big way. And, it wasn't just the media talking them up. Jimbo Fisher played a big part in that in the off-season. They came into the year ranked No. 6, but they completely fizzled. Falling  to OU at home, especially after losing your starting QB is nothing to be ashamed about, but to drop three in a row, including against unranked Wake Forest isn't the stuff of elite programs. 

Look at the rest of the schedule. There are no ranked teams remaining. There is nothing that will get people's attention and show that this isn't the same overhyped team that it had been in the past few years, where all of those four and five-star recruits didn't translate into Top 10 teams.

From @SteveFeenEven with Penn State's revolving QB door, do you think they have a legit shot at the B10 title game behind Redd and their D?

I doubt it. They are too sluggish on offense. If they're going to win their division, one of these two QBs needs to really emerge fast. I'm skeptical because you'd have think if it was going to happen, it would've occurred by now. Thus far, they've been winning on defense and, quite frankly, shaky competition. The closest thing PSU has to a good win is beating unranked Iowa, who had already lost to Iowa State. After this Northwestern game, the schedule gets much tougher, the Nittany Lions are going to have to do much better. They've played a bunch of suspect defenses (aside from Alabama and Temple) and they're still only 96th in scoring and 102nd in passing efficiency.

From @adamdounn How do you think The U will do the rest of the season? I love Golden and very impressed with Jedd Fisch on improving J-12

After this week's game against No. 22 Georgia Tech, the Canes schedule eases up some, I'd expect them to be no worse than 8-4, which considering they started 2-3 and with a ton of turmoil amid the Nevin Shapiro scandal and all of those suspensions, that wouldn't be too bad for Golden's first season. Not great, but respectable all things considered.

Fisch has proven to be a terrific find as the OC. People were skeptical because he had only one season as a college offensive coordinator at Minnesota and the results were mediocre. Well, it's been quite the opposite for him at UM. The work he's done helping get Jacory Harris' confidence back has been head-turning, as I wrote in the Big Picture. The Canes are 48th in scoring and ninth in passing efficiency despite having already faced four defenses ranked in the top 25. Keep in mind last year UM was 67th in scoring and 97th in passing efficiency.

That said, I expected more from the defense. Then again, that side of the ball got hit harder by the suspensions and has now been hammered by injury along the D-line.

Obviously, for Golden and this program, the biggest thing will be how much the NCAA can find -- and prove from the Shapiro allegations. And then how harsh the sanctions are.

From @gibsonjosh79 who has the tougher job ahead of them Will Muschamp or Derek Dooley?

Dooley probably does. He inherited a bigger mess, not just in terms of talent left in the program but the profile of the Gators program is still very high in many recruits' minds. The Vols have been struggling for a few years now, which is a long time for kids who weren't old enough to remember the Tee Martin BCS title team. Also, Florida has so many more elite recruits close by.

From @LandonP23 Is Tyler Wilson of <s class="hash">#</s>Arkansas hands down the best Qb in the Sec?

Yes, Wilson has been as good as advertised. Maybe even better. The toughness he showed when he got battered at Alabama was really something. The Razorbacks have had some significant injuries to some of their best offensive weapons, but this offense still piles up points. I give Wilson the edge over Aaron Murray, who has thrown seven INTs, more than double Wilson's total this year. 

From @ChrisSedenka  Is it time for Geno Smith to start getting more national attention?

Geno's gotten plenty of attention, and if WVU continues to roll up wins, his stats will surely keep people buzzing. Thing is, if he was going to really enter the Heisman race, he needed to lead WVU to an upset win over LSU on national TV. That was really his only shot this year at a cache win over an elite team. Smith was pretty good in that game, but despite the gaudy numbers, he wasn't at his best and LSU cruised. Smith just needs to keep growing in this system. Look for him to be a serious Heisman contender in 2012.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:29 am

Examining the Heisman race

We are near the midway point of the season and the Heisman race is very murky. After a few weeks with Baylor's Robert Griffin III in my top spot, I have Stanford's Andrew Luck back at No. 1. Luck has been as advertised, looking like the closest thing to an NFL QB as you'll see playing at the college level. With him, Stanford is a legit BCS title contender. Without him, the Cardinal would be struggling to get bowl eligible.

Luck has a 14-2 TD-INT ratio and is completing 73 percent of his passes, up from last year's under 71. A few weeks before the season Luck told me one of his goals was to improve five percent on his accuracy and much of that would hinge on his bettering his timing with his receivers, many of whom are new, on their routes. Even though he's only up about three percentage points from last year, he's actually up 7 percent from where he was at this same stage in 2010 (113 for 172, 66 percent, 16 TDs, 4 INTs).

Griffin has been superb, although his numbers have started to tail off just a bit. He's still completing 80 percent of his passes with a 19-1 TD-INT mark and trails only Russell Wilson in passing efficiency. Griffin's TD-INC ratio is now 19-28. If he could've led Baylor in a rally to beat K-State, RG3 would still be number one on my list.

LSU's Tyrann Mathieu is up to third on my list. No defender has a bigger impact on a game than the Honey Badger, the wild card on arguably the country's top D. Mathieu is a magnet to the football and he doesn't just get to it, he often finds a way to take it. Mathieu leads LSU in tackles (41), is second in TFLs (5.0), leads in forced fumbles (4), leads in fumbles recovered (three), is second in passes defensed (six) and is tied for the lead in INTs (two). And I can say this from being around a team that spent a week preparing for LSU, the threat of the Honey Badger is almost as destructive as the Honey Badger himself. 

Realistically, I doubt he can win it, but if Luck and Russell Wilson tail off and LSU wins the SEC and he keeps making big plays, he has a better chance than people might think.  We are in a different era of sports and awards and Mathieu can definitely get to NYC for the ceremony.

Former N.C. State QB Russell Wilson has made Wisconsin a BCS title contender. The transition to his new Big Ten team couldn't have gone any smoother. He's been brilliant, leading the nation in passing efficiency at 216.89. In three seasons at NCSU, he was at 135.5. The nimble 5-11, 205-pounder, who had never completed better than 59 percent of his passes in three seasons of ACC play, is up to 75 percent this year and burning defenses with big play after big play.

Trent Richardson is fifth on my list. The Alabama back has been at his best in the Tide's two toughest spots, shredding Florida in the Swamp for 181 rushing yards and lighting up Arkansas for 126 yards rushing and 85 more receiving. Of all the top running backs Richardson has the best shot to win the Heisman because he plays for the best team and because he will have a marquee opportunity early in November when LSU visits 'Bama.

The field: It's been a long time since I didn't have Kellen Moore anywhere on my top five, but for as sharp as the Boise State QB has been, especially after having lost two gifted wideouts to the NFL, other quarterbacks have been even more impressive.

Denard Robinson's been on my weekly Heisman list a few times this season, but for as dynamic as he's been carrying the 6-0 Michigan Wolverines, his passing (10 TDs, 9 INTs) is holding him back in light of the other elite QBs. He completed 63 percent of his passes last year and is only at 56 percent this year.

After last weekend, I'm starting to think Miami's Lamar Miller is best player on a losing team and the speedy RB may be the best tailback in the country. He has really blossomed as he's gotten stronger and learned to be more patient. Despite a nagging shoulder injury, he's gone over 100 yards every time out and last week he ran for 166 yards on the road at Va. Tech against what was the country's #2 run defense. I know Richardson, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James have gotten more pub, but I suspect Miller, who is as explosive as any back in the country and is also a legit 216-pounder, will prove to be the best of all of them down the road.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:24 am
This entry has been removed by the administrator.

Post Deleted by Administrator

This message has been removed by the administrator.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:13 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:24 am
This entry has been removed by the administrator.

Post Deleted by Administrator

This message has been removed by the administrator.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:07 pm

Mailbag: Penn St still a national power?

Time for this week's mailbag. As always, if you have mailbag questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @NittanyState06  from an outsiders POV, Is Penn State still looked on as a national power? Will we begin hearing cries for JoePa to step down?

The Nittany Lions are no longer at that level and they don't look like they'll be headed back to that level any time soon. PSU did have two strong years in 2008 and 2009, going 22-4 before last season's 7-6 mark. But even in the '09 season when they went 11-2, they didn't seem like a powerhouse. They only faced one team in the regular season that was ranked (#15 Ohio State) and the Nittany Lions lost 24-7 at home. 

This year, Penn State is 4-1, but it's about as shaky a 4-1 as this program's probably had in decades. They got run over at home by Alabama and barely survived against Temple. Last weekend, they had their hands full with 1-4 Indiana. 

Obviously, Penn State still has a marquee component. The Nittany Lions have a genuine legend in Paterno and a huge fan base, but something is now missing: The on-field product. Penn State is 1-6 in its last seven games against ranked opponents (averaging about 11 ppg in those games) and five of those six Ls have come by 16 points or more. The Nittany Lions not being competitive against top teams is the biggest reason why I feel like the perception is this program no longer is a national power.

This is a team with major quarterback issues and you wonder if they'll be able to sort that out. As for the cries for JoePa to step down we've been hearing those on and off for years.

From @PaulPabst  Can Luck lose a game and still win Heisman? Any way Kellen Moore can win the Heisman?

Andrew Luck can. His team doesn't need to be perfect to win the Heisman. He will get a lot of benefit of the doubt from Heisman voters, who quite frankly probably couldn't name a second Stanford player. Even if they go 10-2, I suspect Luck still wins because most voters will say they probably wouldn't even have made a bowl game without him.

Moore needs a lot of help. While he's a strong candidate, the level of competition he faces each week holds him back. No one questions whether he is a great college QB. He is. But he needs others, such as Luck to fall. 

One of the guys with a legit shot of giving Luck a run is Alabama's Trent Richardson. He's coming off a huge game in the Swamp and he will have the whole country riveted in the Game of the Year Nov. 5 when LSU visits. If Richardson has a big day running all over that Tiger D, and Bama wins, he will give voters a lot to think about--especially if the Cardinal fall out of the top 10.

From @Lexvegaskid better defensive player: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU or (Melvin) Ingram for S. Carolina?

Both are true impact players, guys every offensive coordinator spends hours worrying about. Right now, I'll take Mathieu over every other defensive player in the country. He makes big plays at a staggering rate. For him to have already set the LSU career forced fumbles record less than halfway through his second season there is remarkable. He is that defense's wildcard since they can do so much with him. He's listed at cornerback but he's as much as SAM linebacker as anything. Mathieu leads the team in tackles by quite a bit and he really does set the tempo for his team with that frenetic style. Thus far it's been the Year of the Honey Badger.

From @mpodo Why isn't Jim Delany interested in expanding Big Ten right now?

The dilemma for Delany and the Big Ten is who is really worth them added? Notre Dame would be, but the Irish do NOT want any part of joining a conference unless they absolutetly have to. Mizzou makes some sense academically and geographically (linked to two strong TV markets, St. Louis and KC and wouldn't be a far trip for teams to get to) but the league didn't want to go that route last year. Pursuing teams from the Big East (Rutgers) or ACC (Maryland) who have the academics that the Big Ten says it must have don't bring much in terms of football equity. Rutgers right now is closer to Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue than it is to Nebraska or Wisconsin and Maryland just got destroyed at home by Temple.

From @J_Sweatt  how hot is mike Sherman's seat?

If the Aggies lose again this weekend, to Texas Tech, it's going to get hot. Two weeks ago Sherman seemed to be in a good spot. The Aggies were heading to the best football conference in the country and playing Top 10 football. Then they had a second-half collapse vs. Oklahoma State and they did the same thing wilting against Arkansas last week. Tech is unranked and a loss here would give a lot of folks close to the Aggies program the feeling that Sherman isn't the right guy to turn things around or lead them into the SEC. This is year four for him and even though he led A&M to the Cotton Bowl last year, he's only 21-21 there with an 11-14 conference mark. This is a loaded offense. It shouldn't be 2-3, but that'll be the record if the Aggies don't get some things figured out fast.

From @Nashville_MMA what are your thoughts on Tyler Brays progression as a sophomore? Jim Chaney has developed some outstanding QBs in his coaching career and Bray looks to be right on track. When I spoke to Chaney, the Vols offensive coordinator, he told me the light had really come on for Bray about a month before the season began where the lanky QB started to grasp what it meant to be a quarterback, not just play the position. That level of focus and preparation is often what separates the good college QBs from the decent ones.

From the tools standpoint, there is a lot to like about Bray. He's got great height, has excellent football savvy and has a gunslingers demeanor, which is a huge plus especially when you have talented targets who can go make plays for you. On paper, those strides he's made are obvious. His completion percentage has jumped from 56 percent to 69 percent and his TD-INT mark is up to 14-2 from 18-10 last year. But in truth, he really has faced only one good defense this season (Florida) and he wasn't that sharp, going 26-48 with three TDs and two picks in a loss. He did lose his most dangerous weapon Justin Hunter in that game though. He needs to show he can deliver against elite competition. This weekend's Georgia game will be a good test. The unranked Dawgs aren't great, but this is still a step up from the teams UT has handled thus far.


From @JayJersey14  I know I'm not the only one to ask, but what's going to happen with the Big East?

No one has much of a clue on this one. The people I've spoken to in the conference are in the dark. They're speculating, optimistically, off the speculation they are hearing. Losing TCU was a big blow after losing Pitt and Syracuse. I was told by someone who saw John Marinatto when the Big East commish learned that Pitt and Cuse were bailing for the ACC and they said it looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The league is in chaos. The best programs in the conference (WVU and Louisville) are trying to bail out to the Big 12, but they might not get the invite. If they don't and they're stuck in the Big East, there's still a real shot that UCONN also could head to the ACC.

From a football standpoint UCONN doesn't have that much cache. If you replaced UCONN with UCF I don't think you lose anything given the potential of UCF. Navy, which I'm told was ready to join the Big East in football, has cold feet after seeing the league start to erode. I imagine ECU would still love to get into the Big East and a possible hope would be to become some improved version of C-USA by taking the best of that league. It is, after all, eat-or-be-eaten in college sports right now.

From @mdg27x Considering Virginia Tech's best victory was close and only over East Carolina, are they really the favorites over Miami?

  Miami hasn't exactly been impressive either. The closest thing the Canes have had to a good win was against an undermanned Ohio State team that looks very shaky right now. UM's defense was run over last week by Bethune-Cookman. Lamar Miller has been terrific, but there are still huge questions about how solid Jacory Harris is and can he play close-to mistake-free football. Tech has given Miami fits in the past and it seems like Harris' career at Miami started its downturn two years ago in a monsoon at Lane Stadium.

From @hogeandrew Andrew Hoge Why isn't Matt Barkley in the Heisman talk when he beats out Luck and James for PAC 12 player of the week?

It's simple. Barkley has really only faced one decent team all year and he struggled. Throwing one TD pass and two INTs in a blowout loss at ASU. The combined record of the other four teams he's played is 7-12. Until he and USC can beat some better teams, he really won't be in the discussion.

From @Dbullsfan  is there any hope on the horizon for NC State fans?

I'll be very surprised if NC State doesn't have a new coach three months from now. And with a coaching change, you always get some aspect of hope.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com